Alfred House Nursing Home
7-9 Portland Place, W1B 1PR
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1927 - 1939

General and maternity

The Alfred House Nursing Home was opened in 1927 by Almina, (Dowager) Countess of Carnarvon.  The Countess had run an auxiliary hospital at 48 Bryanston Square during WW1 and had developed a taste for medical matters.  To finance the venture, she had sold some Egyptian antiquities to the Metropolitan Museum in New York for £50,000.  The Nursing Home was named after Baron Alfred de Rothschild, her benefactor (and reportedly real father), who had died in 1918.

The Nursing Home specialised in diseases of the rich and famous.  Members of the British and European Royal families also received treatment, including several members of the displaced Spanish Royal family in the years preceding the Spanish Civil War.  The most prominent patient at the Nursing Home was the Duke of Gloucester, the son of King George V, who was admitted with appendicitis.

Although she had received no formal nursing training, the Countess would gown up and assist the surgeon, Lord Moynihan, in the operating theatre, picking up the swabs and hanging them up.

The Countess, however, had no interest in financial matters and the nursing home had no reliable accounting system.  She even considered it 'bad form' to send bills to less affluent patients.  To improve the financial situation, the Home began to offer a special (and illegal) service - abortion - to well-off Society women.  The writer Evelyn Waugh referred to the Home as 'Almina's abortionist parlour'.  Despite this, the Countess had to raise more money to run the Home by arranging another sale at Christie's.

The Nursing Home closed in 1939 at the outbreak of WW2.  During its operational lifetime, some 4,025 patients had been treated.

The Home moved to The Red House at 21 Lansdowne Road, Hove, Sussex, which had been built for Lord Carnarvon in 1913.  It dealt mainly with maternity cases.

Present status (February 2012)

Alfred House was destroyed by bombs in 1940.  Its site is now mainly occupied by Ability House at No. 7 Portland Place, while Ambika House has been built on part of No. 9.
Ability House
It is proposed to convert Ability House, a former office building, into 8 apartments.

Ambika House
Ability House is somewhat dwarfed by its neighbour, Ambika House, which has already been converted into apartments.
(Author unstated) 1926 Nursing echoes.  British Journal of Nursing (November), 242.

(Author unstated) 1988 Memoirs of Lord Moynihan.  A conversation between Sir Reginald Murley and John Hosford. British Medical Journal 297 (6664), 1656-1657.

Carnarvon F 2011 Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey. London, Hodder & Stoughton.

Cross W 2011 Lady Carnarvon's Nursing Homes: Nursing the Privileged in Wartime and Peace.  Self-published.

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